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Spain and Croatia brace for another battle in their Euro 2024 opener

DORTMUND, Germany : Spain and Croatia begin their Euro 2024 campaigns on Saturday with a rematch of last year's nervy UEFA Nations League final as they kick off the action in Group B, which also includes European champions Italy and surprise package Albania.

With memories of a heartbreaking shootout defeat by Spain still fresh in their minds, captain Luka Modric's perennial overachievers seem ready to again challenge the pre-tournament odds in their quest to finally win a major trophy.

After reaching the 2018 World Cup final and making the semi-finals four years later, having fought back to eliminate five-times champions Brazil on penalties at Qatar 2022, the Nations League final loss to Spain was a tough pill to swallow.

It also raised questions of how long the country's 'golden generation' can keep on writing one of the great underdog stories in recent soccer history.

Yet Croatia go into the tournament still relying on a midfield trio of Modric (39), Marcelo Brozovic (31) and Mateo Kovacic (30), who gave a taste of their competitive hunger on Saturday when they handed Portugal a 2-1 defeat in Lisbon.

The result did not reflect the visitors' dominance against Roberto Martinez's side, who were subdued despite being almost at full strength with Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Vitinha and Ruben Dias in the starting 11.

The win gave Zlatko Dalic's side a boost for their Euro 2024 debut against old rivals Spain - one of the few elite teams giant-killers Croatia have regularly failed to slain.

BLAME SPAIN

Spain are partly to blame for Croatia's failure to hit the same World Cup highs at the European Championship in which their best result has been reaching the quarter-finals twice.

It will be the fourth straight Euros in which their

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